Word: Remove unwanted styles quickly

January 28, 2010


You receive a Word document that’s been through many hands, maybe even several different companies. It is littered with unused styles (typically with weird style names!) and you want to get rid of these styles from your full list of styles once and for all.


There are several ways to get rid of unwanted styles. The method you choose depends on how many you need to get rid of, and the steps vary a little depending on whether you’re using Word 2003 or Word 2007.

Note: You cannot delete the default styles. Well, you can, but it requires some messing around. Check this Microsoft Knowledge Base article on how to do this in Word 2000 — it should apply to later versions too, though I haven’t tried any of their suggestions: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/193536.

Method 1: Delete a few styles manually

If you only have a few styles to delete, it’s probably just as quick to do them one at a time:

  • Word 2003: Open the Styles and Formatting task pane (Format > Styles and Formatting), right-click on the style you want to delete, then select Delete.
  • Word 2007: Show the Styles window (click the dialog launcher at the lower right of the Styles group on the Home tab). right-click on the style you want to delete, then select Delete <style name>.

Method 2: Delete many styles simultaneously

Word 2003:

  1. Open the Styles and Formatting task pane (Format > Styles and Formatting) to display the styles (1).
  2. Go to the Show drop-down list at the bottom of the task pane and select  the Custom option (2).
  3. Click the Styles button (3) on the Format Settings window.
  4. Click the Organizer button (4) on the Style window.
  5. The Organizer window displays, listing the styles in your currently open document on the left. Select the styles you no longer want from the list on the left (use Ctrl+click or Shift+click to select multiples) [5], then click Delete (6).
  6. Confirm the deletion when asked.

Word 2007:

  1. Show the Styles window (click the dialog launcher at the lower right of the Styles group on the Home tab [1]). Note: I’ve highlighted the unwanted styles (2) in the screen shot below — you won’t see this highlighting in your list!
  2. Click the Manage Styles icon (3) at the bottom of the Styles window.
  3. Click Import/Export (4) on the Edit tab in the Manage Styles window (this is equivalent to the Organizer in Word 2003).
  4. The Organizer window displays, listing the styles in your currently open document on the left. Select the styles you no longer want from the list on the left (use Ctrl+click or Shift+click to select multiples) [5], then click Delete (6).
  5. Confirm the deletion when asked.

[Links last checked December 2009]


  1. Thanks for sharing this how-to for removing formatting and styles in Word. Extremely helpful!

    If you (or your readers) are interested in testing out your knowledge of Microsoft Office, try out Ribbon Hero. It’s a free add-in that lets users earn points for accomplishing certain tasks in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Then, challenge your friends and family to see who knows Office best.

    You can find a demo and download information at http://www.officelabs.com/ribbonhero

    MSFT Office Outreach Team

  2. Based on the videos on that page you referenced, Kim, Ribbon Hero is an interesting concept. I can see it being useful in some environments and for generations that have been brought up on games. Personally, I think it would drive me mad ;-) Especially getting rewards for manual formatting instead of applying styles.

  3. Doesn’t work.

  4. I beg your pardon. It works for styles I’ve created, but not for styles the program created from direct formatting. Any clues?

  5. Doesn’t work for me. In the step 4 just appear the styles I create not the word once! Please help there are hundred!!
    Any idea?

  6. Do you have a solution for 2010

  7. Hi Jennifer

    The Word 2007 instructions don’t work for 2010? I can’t check 2010 right now, but let me know if the 2007 instructions for Method 2 don’t apply and I’ll check in 2010 next week.


  8. Great tip! No need for macros or extensions … who would have guessed that you have to open Import/Export menu in order to delete styles?

  9. There is a simple way to remove all unused (non-buil-in) styles with a macro. It works perfectly in Word 2010: http://word.tips.net/T001337_Removing_Unused_Styles.html

  10. How do you kill List Styles in 2003/2007/2010? I don’t see that anywhere (could be overlooking it though). Thanks

  11. Hi Steve

    You can’t as far as I can see — at least not via the dialog box for managing/editing styles. You may be able to delete a list style you’ve created, but you can’t delete those supplied by Microsoft. Same for their table styles, heading styles, etc. — you can’t delete those either.

    You might be able to delete one of these via a macro, but I wouldn’t know where to start with that. Perhaps try posting your question to the Microsoft Answers forum for Word (http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/office). If you get an answer, I’d appreciate it if you could post the link to it here.


  12. I deleted them at C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\Office14\1033\QuickStyles

  13. Hi Johnny

    When I looked in that location, the only things I could see were the templates (dotx files) for the themes for documents, not the specific styles *within* a document. I created a new (garbage) style in a document, but it didn’t get listed in that location either.


  14. Is there a macro to do the same, to remove multiple styles with just one click?

  15. Hi Puru

    I’m not sure that a macro would be any more efficient. How does Word know what styles aren’t used or aren’t likely to be used? I’d think you’d have to enter all those style names into the macro — and it would be easier to use the method above.

    If you’re still looking for a macro option, I suggest you ask you question in the Microsoft Word community: http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/office/forum/word


  16. To delete a self-made style in Word 2010
    1 Go to the ‘home’ tab in word
    2 Under the button called “Change Styles” there is a very small square with an arrow pointing out to the bottom right (it’s called an expansion arrow).
    3 Click this
    4 A drop down list of all the styles will appear
    5 Find the offending style, click the down-arrow on the right of the style
    6 Select delete from the drop-down list of options
    7 The style will now be completely deleted

  17. That’s the method I describe in Method 1.

  18. The way Word does styles beggars belief. It’s as if someone actually set out to make it as retarded and difficult as possible. Look at the way InDesign manages styles – the use has complete control. I despise Word with a passion. It is without doubt the worst piece of junk ever devised. The fact that something like InDesign is far far far superior as a text editor is laughable.

  19. Oh man, you saved my life with this tutorial on style deleting… Thanks!

  20. This won’t help, anytime you paste something into document, new styles will appear out of nowhere.
    Microsoft is a lost in it’s own incompetence.

  21. Hi Sole42

    Yes, if you paste text keeping the original formatting, you are likely to introduce rogue styles. This post isn’t about that — it’s about cleaning up styles that aren’t used and that you no longer want.

    To prevent introducing rogue styles from other documents, paste as unformatted text (https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2012/11/21/word-2010-keyboard-shortcut-to-paste-unformatted-text/), then apply styles from your own template.


  22. Found this article in a quick search using the phone. Got what I needed.

  23. Save it as .RTF, then close it, then open the .RTF in MS Word, and save it again in .DOC format.

    Worked with me!


  24. Thank you! A bit different in office 2013, but made it!

  25. I wish to delete only the styles not in use of document in one click. No such solution found. Regards snhpramod@gmail.com

  26. Hi Pramod

    There’s no way that I know to delete unused styles in one click. You can hide them, but deleting multiple styles requires a few more clicks (see Method 2 above).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: